Russell Fogarty is a bit of a legend in the jewelry world and he is known today for being the founder of Beladora, a premier online estate jeweler. Beladora is a fabulous estate jewelry destination. The office in Beverly Hills and e-commerce site have everything from stunning engagement rings, to collectible David Webb pieces, and loose diamonds galore. If you are a gem-geek or bling-alohic I highly recommend a solid few hours browsing the collection online.
Russell himself is a GIA graduate and former head of Christie's jewelry department in New York - aka this man knows his stuff. He is passionate about Beladora as a way to provide carefully chosen, vetted and curated estate jewels in a very transparent way. He is also, of course, a lover of engagement rings and helping people find the right ring for them. We were lucky enough to tap him for some advice on how to find "the one" aka the perfect ring.
What is the best place to start when looking for an engagement ring?
The very first question I ask when someone comes to us looking for an engagement ring is, “How much do you want to spend?” There are wonderful options at all price points so it’s important to establish where you want to be, budget-wise, for this big, and hopefully lifetime, purchase.
Whether buying a vintage ring or sourcing a stone and creating a new mounting, I usually advise concentrating the budget on the center stone because that’s where the long-term value lies. Beautiful vintage mountings add to the look and personality of a ring, but it’s the stones you are really paying for.
Once we have a sense of budget, the next step is to choose the shape. My job is then to find the very best balance between quality, size, and budget. The variables are many and every client has different priorities as to the balance between clarity, color, and size. We try to find that sweet spot in a well-cut diamond for the best long term value and enjoyment.
When buying a diamond how important is it to get one with a GIA certificate?
We recommend that you never buy a diamond of a half carat or larger without a GIA report and in fact, we insist on them for everything we buy and sell. In some cases, it is impossible to remove a stone from its vintage setting without damaging the integrity of the mounting, but that’s rare. A jeweler should care about having GIA reports as much as the buyer because we need to know the true color, clarity, and weight of what’s being sold and the buyer needs to know what they are buying.
A GIA certificate removes the guesswork and makes for a fair transaction since quality and price are so intertwined.GIA certificates provide even more information that the common 4Cs and those extra factors influence quality and price. It’s smart to buy from a jewelry specialist who has an in-depth understanding of the details of a GIA report.
What’s your opinion, should engagement rings always be a surprise?
That’s deeply personal and really depends on the couple, but since an engagement ring is something that will be worn for a very long time, the groom needs to know exactly what the bride wants, and if not, they should both be involved in the process.
If the bride prefers a surprise, and in my experience, I don’t know many who do! At least, have a strategically placed photo in full view to give some direction. My personal feeling is that most men have no idea what their fiancée might like so it’s a much safer, and equally fun process to do it together. The actual proposal can be the surprise, but not necessarily the ring. Or give a promise ring for the proposal and then shop together afterward for the real thing!
Of the 4Cs, what do you think are the most important?
Actually, all the 4Cs are important, but the color is the most important to us. There can be beautiful M color stones, for instance, particularly old-cuts, but unlike clarity grades, which within reason are typically microscopic differences that can not be seen by the naked eye, color is something the untrained eye can see on a daily basis.
If you are looking into purchasing a ring from an online retailer what should look out for?
First and foremost, you must know the return policy of any internet seller. Buying on the web offers so much choice and makes it so easy, in fact possible, for people who don’t live near a major city or reputable jewelry store to find what they want, but it doesn't’ t offer the benefit of being able to try on.
You must be able to return anything you buy online in case it is not perfect when it arrives and if ever you are going for perfect, it’s for your engagement ring. Assuming there is an easy and full return policy, be sure what you buy is authentic and as described. That means an accompanying GIA certificate and knowing the reputation of the company you are dealing with.
Do you have an all-time favorite engagement ring?
I actually have two all time favorite styles. The first is the classic emerald cut. I love the distinctive nature of that shape which, unlike modern, brilliant-cut rounds which are quite precise and uniform, emerald cuts vary from stone to stone. Some models just slay me the way they are proportioned and cut, cut meaning how the facets are placed, as opposed to shape.
I also love antique-cut cushions and rounds in old platinum settings. The individual personality and uniqueness of these diamonds, which were cut by hand before the invention of modern machinery, appeals to my aesthetic sense.
You can find Beladora's incredible Estate Jewelry Collection At Beladora.com